Posted by: wordofexcellence | March 28, 2011

Unbearable, Unbelievable Pain

I found out the other day that I have a kidney stone.  Ironically, my primary care physician (that’s how I’m supposed to say it these days, right?) and I had a conversation during my last office visit about that very topic.  I am cautious (at least I thought so) to drink lots of water.  After all, I know the benefits of being hydrated, the effectiveness of the beverage on the human body – not to mention the human soul.

I related to her that a friend of mine, Larry, had been down the kidney stone highway on two occasions – both when he and I were much younger than I am now – and that having heard about what he went through, there was no way I wanted to go through the same.

So here I was, Sunday, March 20, 2011, feeling a tremendous pain in my abdomen along with a touch of nausea; wondering what in the world had brought this about.  I had just finished recording a tape for CRIS Radio, in Windsor, CT, which is a service for blind and print-handicapped individuals; and my son Caleb and I were about to leave.  He enjoys going to the station with me on occasion. 

I was locking the door behind me when I felt the first pangs and the nauseated feeling.  Of course, the first taste I recognized was that of a Hershey’s Kiss that I’d just eaten (from the candy bowl at CRIS).  My immediate thought was that it was an old chocolate and that it was trying to eat away at me in revenge for my having eaten it.  Where that horrendous pain was coming from was what I couldn’t fathom.

After retching a few times, eliminating some sputum from my system, but still in pain, I hopped in the driver’s seat and Caleb and I headed down the road to home – about six or seven miles away.  About halfway, while trailing someone going way too slow for my liking, I found that I had to stop and hop out again before I vomited on the steering wheel.

I pulled over, jumped out and made my way to the curb, somewhat alarming Caleb, who didn’t feel quite as secure as he or I would have liked in these circumstances.  Again, the nausea didn’t lead to any hurling, and he persuaded me to once again get behind the wheel and drive home.

We arrived home – he asking me if he could run next door to see the neighbors, me wanting only to go inside and lie down and see if rest would eliminate my anxiety over this sudden attack that I couldn’t understand.  I suggested he “ask Mommy, ‘cause I don’t feel good,” and he did so, successfully.  I staggered through the kitchen and into the family room where I collapsed on the couch and said “I really don’t feel good at all.”

My wife’s reaction was a bit slower than I would have liked, but she was in the midst of talking to her cousin and his wife about some sort of computer issue.  I reiterated my plight, and she (and they) suggested that there was a new clinic nearby that I could visit.  Not my idea of the best solution, but I saw a slight light at the end of this horrendous tunnel, so I jumped back in the truck and headed out there, still feeling absolutely awful.

Upon arriving, I was advised that there wasn’t much help available there, but they’d happily take my $30 co-pay and check my urine.  Filling out the paperwork was such a chore, I wondered if I was losing all of my strength.  Completing that, I was ushered into the bathroom, where I produced a sample that looked alright to me.  The “doctor” (if that’s what he really was; and I have my doubts) returned after having done the proper analysis, and advised me that there was a fair amount of blood in the urine. He also proceeded to tell me that since they were simply clinicians in this facility and lacking equipment for additional treatment; that I’d be better served at one of the local hospitals.

My mood, my abdomen, my head – they all conspired to make me irritable, and I was driven to much distraction as he babbled on and on without saying much of anything, in my opinion.  All I wanted was relief, and all he could give me was a song-and-dance about not being able to render relief.  I hope I wasn’t rude, but my tolerance level for foolishness (never high to begin with) was vanishing quickly.

I called my wife to alert her to the need to get me to the ER as quickly as possible.  She demurred, saying they were busy, but I insisted, saying that I was not in any shape to get on the highway and wend my way to the hospital by myself.  In about ten minutes, she and her cousin came to get me.  She took our truck back home, and he drove me hospital-bound. 

Knowing my patience had stretched beyond its reasonable boundaries, I apologized in advance for any curt remarks I might make.  He understood.  After some daredevil antics on the highway, zipping in and out of traffic, we arrived at the emergency room, where I quickly (sort of quickly, given my condition) got out and made my way in, telling him he didn’t have to stay (would he have, anyway?).

On the way, I had called my ex-wife, Kathy, asking if she had “any stroke in the ER” that might get me seen faster.  No, she didn’t. Then I called a dear friend, Michelle, hoping that I’d reach her at work in the ER, where she’s a secretary.  Her cell phone has apparently changed, because I didn’t get through – hmmm…now I wonder how “dear” a friend she is!  Trust me; I’ll rectify it.

Fortunately, when I arrived, it was about 5 pm and apparently Sunday afternoons are not a bad time to need immediate care at the hospital.  I was ushered into the administrative area where we completed the initial paperwork, and then sent back to sit and wait for a wheelchair.  That arrived within a few minutes and the next phase of my ordeal began.

In short order, I was ushered out of the wheelchair, given a johnny to use for my clothing and asked for a urine sample.  I was, unfortunately, fresh out and unable to perform at that moment.  It took a while for my system to cooperate, and I whiled away my time on a gurney while waiting for that magic moment.

I’d brought the Sunday newspaper to read, but I was in such pain that I couldn’t even pick it up to begin reading.  Mind you, this is the newly-renamed 3rd round of the NCAA tourney, and I’m an inveterate basketball nut. I wanted nothing more than to sit down and enjoy some college hoop, but here I was with excruciating pain racking my body, waiting for relief.  I still hadn’t heard who won all of the previous day’s games, having spent the brunt of my Sunday in church.

Somebody promised me a painkiller, and then somebody else promised me a painkiller, and yet another person asked if I’d been given a painkiller yet. “No, I haven’t,” I weakly responded, to the last questioner.  They’d been giving me intravenous liquid, but nothing to stem the tide of pain that was agonizing.

At around 8 pm, I finally received a dose of morphine.  Not too long after that, my pain was soothed.  The sequence of the events of the remainder of the night are a bit hazy, given my pain, given my relief from the pain, drowsiness, a fervent desire to be “anywhere else but here,” and  a desire to get to the bottom of my pain.

Following a CT scan, I was advised that, indeed, it was a kidney stone, and the processes of infiltration into my body, extraction from my body, and all the consequences of this foreign object, were all explained to me.

Please don’t ask me to give a lesson.  My attention span had been severed by the overwhelming sensation of pain hours earlier.

Post-morphine, I was able to read the newspaper eventually, and then I dozed off – catching 40 winks here and there, putting up with the guy two gurneys down who kept shouting about how his rights had been infringed upon because they wouldn’t allow him to have a cigarette at his regularly-scheduled time. 

I remarked to myself each time he shouted out, hoping that they’d quiet him down sooner than later. Much to my pleasure, they either gave him a boot or a butt – I’m not sure which.  I didn’t hear from him at all after a while.

I was discharged at about 1 am, and knowing that my wife and son were abed, dreaming of distant shores, I deemed it appropriate to catch a cab home.  I was given three prescriptions (Oxycodone, Motrin and something for nausea), and I realized that a 24-hour pharmacy wasn’t too far from home. I reasoned that I could arrive home, hop in the truck and zip over to get the medications right away and not risk additional pain.

Fortunately, at 2 am, this particular pharmacy isn’t exactly jumping with customers.  The pharmacist quickly reviewed my needs and within about ten minutes, I was on my way back out the door, with a brand new bottle of water in hand as well.  Trust me to stay well-hydrated.

I made it home shortly thereafter, determined that it was senseless to go to bed and awaken everyone, so I camped out on the sofa downstairs. My pain was gone – thanks again to the morphine – and I only needed to rest and recuperate from the ordeal.  They’d told me to schedule a visit with my own physician and to arrange for a follow-up in a 2-3 week period with a urologist, which I planned to do in short order.

I’ve lived to tell the tale of my bout with pain unbearable, the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m writing this on Tuesday, about 48 hours after my first symptoms arrived. I have consumed about 2.5 liters of water so far today, and I’m feeling good, as I did yesterday as well. I’m taking only the medication that I feel is necessary at this juncture – no need for the nausea repellent, nor for the oxycodone.

Visiting my physician yesterday, I learned that a 4-centimeter stone is far too large for me to simply “pass” it.  In all likelihood, she opined, they’ll extract it by way of ultrasound when I keep my appointment with the urologist in about two and a half weeks.

A kidney stone is truly no joke. I have never been in such pain – at least not in my recollection. Not only that, but for me, a hospital trip is an extreme rarity. I’ve only been hospitalized once in my life, and that was when I was 20 and in the Army and suffering an upper respiratory infection. I have never undergone surgery; rarely feel so sick that I need doctor’s care specifically.

I look forward to being stone-free, whether by my own bodily functions (though that sounds so harsh!) or by ultrasound or even surgical procedure.  I’m a water drinker anyway, so increasing my intake won’t be difficult at all; and, as my physician pointed out, all beverages count (coffee, tea, etc.).  So far, no additional pain has come my way, and I’m hopeful for continuation.

The worst part of having an episode of a kidney stone is that the likelihood of recurrence is high. I suppose a dietary change may be in the works, and I’m hopeful (that word again) that my favorite foods will not be taken from me. 

I’m blessed and fortunate to be healthy to begin with. I dare not attempt to imagine the misery otherwise suffered.



  1. Brother George,

    I pray that you have no further episodes with the kidney stone that has invaded your body. I can truely relate to what you have gone and are going through for I too have had a kidney stone, and yes, it is extremely painful. I will keep you in my prayers that all things will go uphill from here, and as always…Be Blessed.

    Your brother in Christ,


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